In light of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Bill Cosby’s
recent conviction, and in the aftermath of our community’s recent
experiences of sexual assault, I am finding myself reflecting on the
prevalence of sexual assault that is perpetuated by the normalization of rape
culture in our society.
Rape Culture is defined as the following: “A society or environment
whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or
trivializing sexual assault and abuse” (Oxforddictionaries.com).
Examples of rape culture:
• Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”).
• Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”).
• Sexually explicit jokes.
• Tolerance of sexual harassment.
• Inflating false rape report statistics.
• Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and
• Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television.
• Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive.
• Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive.
• Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get
• Refusing to take rape accusations seriously.
• Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to
Sexual assault survivors in society today are finding the courage to
speak out against their perpetrators. The list of famous men in power
positions accused of sexual misconduct continues to grow as victims gain the
courage to speak out. The “Me Too” Movement sheds light on the
discouraging prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. Yet, in our
communities I notice underlying rape culture myths continue to influence
people’s perspectives. I’ve observed that even as we as a culture are
just beginning to listen to survivors, some people continue to blame the
victim, stating that women are “getting carried away” with their
“accusations.” This to me is a clear example of how rape culture shapes
our perspectives on the subconscious level, perpetually placing the fault
back on the victim.
I urge each one of us to examine our underlying biases that may point
toward rape culture. As citizens of the U.S., none of us are exempt from
immersion in a society that perpetuates rape culture in both overt and covert
ways. This inevitably impacts our perspective on the world. Think about the
younger generations. Do we want them to be raised in a community where it is
not okay to speak out against sexual violence? Do we want our children to
live in an unsafe community where perpetrators are free to roam the streets
without being held accountable for their crimes? How have these thoughts even
become questions? Well, here is the simple truth: It is because rape culture
is still alive in our community. We must all do consciousness-raising work to
combat it. Still, hope prevails in the midst of our predicament in the form
of people who want justice. It only takes one brave person at a time to speak
his or her truth. It takes a community of people speaking out in support of
the survivor to actively combat rape culture and to overcome this cycle of